Mag­netic at­trac­tion

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -

It’s been more than three decades since hard disk record­ing first hit the stu­dio scene, yet de­spite the tech­nol­ogy pro­vid­ing pris­tine au­dio fidelity in an in­fin­itely mal­leable form, there are still those who in­sist upon (or dream about) record­ing to good-old-fash­ioned mag­netic tape.

Why, though? What makes this cum­ber­some, ex­pen­sive and frag­ile medium so ap­peal­ing? The an­swer de­pends upon who you ask. Some tra­di­tional stu­dio en­gi­neers love the sound of a well-main­tained, high-end mul­ti­track ma­chine. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, th­ese ma­chines were any­thing but colour­ful. They were, in fact, rather ac­cu­rate, and any char­ac­ter they im­parted was sub­tle. Any overt flavour was gen­er­ally the re­sult of in­ten­tional mis­use on the part of the op­er­a­tor – for ex­am­ple, the tape would sat­u­rate at hot in­put lev­els, pro­duc­ing a mildly dis­torted com­pres­sion ef­fect that’s quite pleas­ing to the ear.

Con­versely, the sort of ma­chines upon which the home recordist might once have de­pended were any­thing but ac­cu­rate. Nar­row track widths and slower tape speeds re­sulted in lower dy­namic range and poorer fre­quency re­sponse. This was es­pe­cially true when it came to the 4-track cas­sette recorder.

Need­less to say, such du­bi­ous qual­i­ties are once again in de­mand in this nos­tal­gic era we live in, and de­vel­op­ers now of­fer new op­tions for recre­at­ing the sounds of var­i­ous tape ma­chines in­side your DAW.

Yet one needs to be sure of what’s needed be­fore load­ing up any old tape sim ef­fect. You can’t sim­ply slam a sig­nal through a bat­tered old cas­sette ma­chine and ex­pect it to im­part the magic mojo of a Studer A80 for you.

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the soft­ware em­u­la­tions on of­fer, and what they can do for your in-the-box sig­nals.

Once a bud­get op­tion for would-be recordists, the lowly Por­tas­tu­dio has been re-em­braced for its lo-fi tone

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